Monthly Archives: December 2014

Many Great Accomplishments in 2014


As the year 2014 closes, it is appropriate to reflect on the many accomplishments of Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School and the achievements of our students, alumni, faculty, and staff.  Here are just a few of the highlights that we posted into the media this year.


The Affiliation with Western Michigan University and Other Initiatives

We are now Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School. WMU has endorsed our great law school by advancing our relationship to formal, named affiliation status.  Students and alumni of both institutions will benefit greatly from this relationship.  The respective faculties and administrators are already working on a host of initiatives, including an accelerated “3+3” program, a legal studies minor, and offering first-term law school courses on WMU’s main campus starting in September 2015.  And the affiliation has been approved by our accrediting and licensing bodies.

We also obtained ABA approval for and opened our new foreign study program in Oxford, England to go with our outstanding programs in Australia and New Zealand and in Toronto.

 Accolades We Received This Year

National Jurist magazine rated the Law School as 17th best in the nation for practical legal training.

Best Choice Schools named our Auburn Hills building one of the 50 most impressive law school buildings in the world.

We continued with our cross-campus environmental sustainability efforts as this year the Tampa Bay building was certified as environmentally friendly by the CERF organization.

The Law School’s West Michigan Public Defender’s Clinic received the Community Spirit Award for its impact in the Grand Rapids community from the LINC Community Revitalization organization.

Associate Dean Joan Vestrand and three graduates of the School were named 2014 Leaders in the Law by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.  And Assistant Dean Tracy Brame and two alumnae were named to be among the top Women in the Law.  Deans Vestrand and Brame thus join 11 other Law School faculty and administrators who have received high recognition from Michigan Lawyers Weekly over the years.  No other law school comes even close to that level of recognition.  To top it off, WMU-Cooley Law School Board of Directors member Thomas Cranmer was named the 2014 Lawyer of the Year by Lawyers Weekly.

 WMU-Cooley Again Showed Its Commitment to Social Justice and Learning from Others

Collectively we made a real impact on the lives of others while enjoying many opportunities to learn.

Donya Davis was exonerated after serving seven years in prison for a crime he did not commit.  Our WMU-Cooley Innocence Project faculty and students worked six years to finally have him freed.  This story made national news

A refugee from Somalia, a Mexican father with four U.S. citizen children, and a refugee from Iraq gained release from federal detention through the work of our Immigrant Rights and Civil Advocacy Clinic faculty and students in Ann Arbor.  This story likewise gained notoriety.

We continued our tradition of fighting human trafficking in important ways.  Our Tampa Bay campus students and staff organized a program on the topic with the Hispanic Organization of Legal Advocates.  And on a more hands-on note, Tampa Bay students and faculty helped renovate a safe house for the Selah Freedom Organization, a group that works against sex trafficking and exploitation.

Literally hundreds of Lansing-area children – many of whom are underprivileged – spent a day of fun and food at Cooley Law School Stadium as part of our 14th annual Cooley for Kids Day.  For many, this was their first trip to a baseball game.  And the Student Bar Association organized a wonderful Day at the Park event for Lansing-areas children.

Low-income residents of Avalon Housing Project’s Stinson Apartments in the Ann Arbor area benefited from the work of students and faculty in planting flowers to make their living place a little more beautiful.

Three students were honored by the Law School with great Deeds Awards this year for their outstanding service to the community.  Marta Garland helped numerous charities and local organizations this year.  Sarah Miller was recognized for her efforts with Kids Hope USA and the Heart of West Michigan United Way.  And Keith Stickley was recognized for his pro bono bankruptcy and expungement work in conjunction with the Macomb County Veterans’ Treatment Court.

Judges from a number of courts came to the Law School this year to share their knowledge and experience with students.  Foremost was the Florida Court of Appeal, which held oral argument of cases at our Tampa Bay campus, allowing students the chance to observe outstanding appellate advocacy.

Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley spoke at the Auburn Hills campus to mark 2014 Patriot’s Day.

 Our Students and Faculty Accomplished Much

We are blessed with active and involved students and experienced and talented faculty who bring enormous energy and passion to the School.  Here are a few highlights.

The WMU-Cooley Law Review organized an important symposium on how the current economy has affected the practice of law in both the private and public sectors.  This symposium generated widespread publicity for the School.

Students and faculty collaborated with Michigan Attorney General Bill Schutte to create the Military Family Law Guide, a handbook for lawyers and judges about family law issues involving members of the armed forces.

Student Aaron Sohaski was elected national chairperson, and fellow student Samantha Jonas was elected governor to the Sixth Circuit, of the American Bar Association Law Student Division the group’s Board of Governors meeting in Charleston, S.C.

Student Porscha Brown was elected national secretary of the National Black Law Student Association.

Our chapter of the Delta Theta Phi national law fraternity received the honor of being selected to edit the fraternity’s annual law journal.

Professors Heather Garretson, Tonya Krause-Phelan, Jane Siegel, and Kara Zech Thelen together published in the Journal of Legal Education a leading article on effective teaching methods.

Professor Mark Cooney published a practical work on research and writing targeted at law students nationally in the American Bar Association’s Student Lawyer magazine.

Professor Michael McDaniel moderated an important national homeland security and defense education summit.

The Law School’s Auburn Hills campus and Professor David Berry hosted leading patent lawyers at the United States Patent & Trademark Office roundtable on patent review proceedings.

You can see many other examples of faculty accomplishment by browsing through past issues of our Benchmark magazine or by reading our latest issue.

 Our Alumni Continued Their Leadership in the Profession

Our alumni, now numbering more than 18,000, continue to achieve throughout the nation and around the world.

Nine of our alumni were named among 30 Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s “Up and Coming Lawyers,” which reported that they “have excelled in their profession and are standouts among their peers.”  No other law school came close in numbers to ours.

Graduates Tom Rombach (Morse Class, 1987) and Lawrence Nolan (Cooley Class, 1976) were sworn in as President and Vice-President, respectively, of the State Bar of Michigan.  And Kevin Robinson (Reid Class, 2006) became President of the West Virginia State Bar.  You can read more about these three gentlemen in the latest issue of Benchmark.

We wish you the very best for a Happy, Healthy, and Successful 2015!


 See much more about WMU-Cooley on the web at

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Students in Sixty Plus Clinic Reflect on Their Great Experiences

Kimberly E. O'Leary

Kimberly E. O’Leary is professor of law and director of WMU-Cooley’s Sixty Plus. Inc. Elderlaw Clinic.  She is a national leader in clinical education, including having served as chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Clinical Legal Education.  Prof. O’Leary writes that “My students are the bright light in the room, always, for me.” She shares with us some of her students’ reflections about their Sixty Plus Clinic experience.

One student noted the feelings a clinical student goes through:
It was like a switch clicked and all of a sudden you know what you’re doing.  The most important skill is patience – with clients, with learning, with systems.  The first term, I had PTSD:  post traumatic supervisory disorder.  It’s all about time and how to manage it.
Here are important realizations from another student:
They actually valued my opinions and my ideas.  I realized I can do it.  I realized certain areas I need to improve.  I learned how you can become the lawyer you want to be.
Another student learned that there is plenty of room for good lawyers, especially those who can work as part of a team:

I heard there’s too many lawyers.  There’s NOT too many lawyers.  Instead, there are so many people who could benefit from a lawyer who don’t have access to one.

Good lawyers find a way to get paid to help people who need them.

There’s work to be done.

I learned a lot about the elderly.

I’ve always been independent. I was nervous about working in a team.

I’ve learned how to work with people in a professional setting.

Yet another offered practical suggestions to future clinical students at the Law School:

·         Write down new ideas so you don’t forget them.

·         Be confident in your role as a lawyer.

·         Act like you know what you’re doing.

·         You don’t have to write a lot to write something good.

·         It’s OK to smile.

Here are some gems:
Silence is OK, and sometimes it is necessary.  I can interact with a client.  I can be creative, think outside the box.  I learned that issues often intertwine.  Knowing where to start . . . .  Explaining the law to clients.  Huge boost of confidence.  Preparation is key.

This student realized that a lawyer sometimes encounters difficult clients:

The client sometimes changes her goals.

After we communicated, the client who initially felt lost instead felt relief and appreciated what I had done for her.

I learned it is OK to ask for help.

Sometimes it is best to gracefully withdraw when you think a client is being unethical.

This student loved the experience of working with colleagues:
I loved bouncing ideas back and forth, exploring issues, putting everything together, getting different perspectives from classmates.  I learned better ways of communication and the importance of staying organized.
And this student exclaimed how she has learned what she wants to do upon graduation, adding some practice pointers for us:

·         This experience led me to my passion.

·         I want to be a solo practitioner in estate planning.

·         Discussing your ultimate wishes is a favor to your family.

·         I want to do Medicaid planning.


·         Don’t take anything at face value.  Investigate.

·         Take deep breaths, and rub your temples.

·         Opinion letters are your best friend.

·         Remember the grand scheme of things.

These students performed admirably in the clinic, learning not only the law but how to serve their clients with skill and compassion.  WMU-Cooley Law School is proud of their achievements.  If you haven’t yet taken your clinic or externship, a valuable and exciting time awaits you.  If you have, please share your experiences with us by commenting below or writing us at

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Variety is the Spice of Life — and the Classroom!

“One size fits all?” Not in the world of education! Four faculty members from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School have put to rest any thoughts that any one single approach to teaching can bring success in the law school classroom.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe Social Science Research Network published “The Value of Variety in Teaching: A Professor’s Guide” in the Journal of Legal Education (Vol. 64, No. 1) authored by WMU-Cooley faculty members Tonya L. Krause-Phelan, Kara Zech Thelen, and Heather Garretson, and former faculty member Jane Siegel. In the 28-page article, the professors show that the storied Socratic Method of teaching is just one of more than 80 ways law school faculty can use to get their message across.

The professors created a practical, how-to guide, organized by skill so that it’s easy for readers to use.

“You’ll enjoy what variety can do for your teaching,” the professors wrote. “And your students will thank you for it.”

Teaching students with a variety of methods helps them both in the classroom and in their career, the professors explained. Just as they learned in a number of different ways in school, the students-turned-lawyers will find themselves having to use a number of alternative methods to convey important legal points to their clients, jurors, and even judges and opposing counsel. With the variety approach, students can draw both on the substantive material they learned and the different methods used to get the points across.

Skills addressed in the helpful article are speaking, writing, concrete learning, organization, practice skills, comprehension, self-assessment, working together, professionalism, student participation, and student feedback.

The article combines practical ideas with a bit of humor here and there. Readers are directed to help their students avoid ambiguity by taking on Medicaid eligibility rules. Which part is unclear? “Pick a provision by throwing a dart at the code,” the professors advised.

The article goes on to address such areas as:

  • Dry classes
  • Obscure wording
  • How to break up issue spotting instruction by having students dissect a few selected songs
  • How to demonstrate the elements of attempted crime with a comparison to baseball, and
  • The benefits of not starting an email with “hey” to illustrate professionalism in communication.

We invite you to read this outstanding article and think you will enjoy learning what these experienced teachers have to say.

Tell us what you think.

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WMU-Cooley Students Learn about the Law, New Cultures in Foreign Study Programs

Hear what WMU-Cooley students Mao Lee and Celene Delice have to say about their experiences in Australia and New Zealand.

Students at WMU-Cooley Law School have the opportunity to expand their horizons through a variety of foreign study programs.  Travelers can continue to earn credit toward their law 1.  2014 AU-NZ.Group at Menzies Creekdegree, experience new cultures across the globe, and make lifelong friends — all through WMU-Cooley’s ABA-accredited study programs in Australia and New Zealand; Oxford, England, and Toronto, Canada.

Between the classes and the opportunities to explore the host countries, the experience can be a life-changing one. But don’t take our word for it. Listen to the foreign study students as we present an interview with them about their experiences.

Mao is “… a fan of Lord of the Rings…”  Air New Zealand is the airline of Middle-earth…check out the pre-flight video!

Mao is “… a fan of Lord of the Rings…” Air New Zealand is the airline of Middle-earth…check out the pre-flight video!

“Hey Mate!” says Celine.  Leave Melbourne and travel along the Great Ocean Road to visit the iconic Twelve Apostles.

“Hey Mate!” says Celine. Leave Melbourne and travel along the Great Ocean Road to visit the iconic Twelve Apostles.


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WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Sought Out to Help Make Sense of Affordable Care Act

One of the benefits of having an in-house expert on a complicated subject is that when the news is swirling with the latest development or deadline, you have a close-at-hand ally to make sense of it all. WMU-Cooley Law School has such an expert when it comes to the Affordable Care Act — Professor Lisa Sewell DeMoss,  director of the school’s LL.M. program in Insurance Law.Demoss_Lisa

With the deadline to sign up for health insurance looming on Monday, Dec. 15,  DeMoss has been much in demand as various media outlets seek out her expertise, explanations, and insight. In addition to her work with WMU-Cooley’s popular insurance law program, DeMoss’ expertise also includes time as general counsel and corporate compliance officer for Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan in Detroit.

A couple important points DeMoss stresses are:

  1. Most people must have coverage or pay a penalty.
  2. You may already be covered through your employer based plan, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, or other government sponsored plan, or you may be exempt from the coverage requirement.
  3. Each state offers several health plans that provide coverage at different price points corresponding to the enrollee’s cost sharing responsibilities for the health services incurred during each annual coverage period.

Sought out for that insight, DeMoss’ latest contributions to the health care conversation include an extensive article on EmaxHealth, a feature interview on the program Inside Maine, on WGAN; a story on WWMT on the west side of Michigan , and a practical interview on Click on Detroit.

Congratulations to Professor DeMoss for helping listeners and readers across the country make sense of this complicated subject. She has helped people wade through the politics and challenges, to understand the forces at play, and to understand what they need to do next on a matter of both personal and social importance.

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WMU-Cooley Grads Lead the Pack of 2014 Up and Coming Lawyers

Nine alumni of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School are among 30 attorneys honored Dec. 4, 2014, by Michigan Lawyers Weekly as “Up and Coming Lawyers for 2014.” This prestigious award is given to young attorneys who have been in practice for less than 10 years and have already made their mark on the profession with their leadership, professional accomplishments, and activities in professional organizations.  WMU-Cooley graduates selected for the honor were:

Joseph A. Bellanca, of Hertz Schram PC, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan,  specializes in entertainment law. He is active in the entertainment community and is a partner in the artist management and event production company, Grand Circus Media. Joseph is a 2008 graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School.

Daniel J. Broxup, of Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones PLC, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, practices securities law, business and commercial litigation, civil litigation, and immigration law. He is a member of the Emerging Leaders Advisory Council to the board of the Special Olympics of Michigan. Daniel is a 2009 magna cum laude graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School.

Nathan A. Dodson, is a shareholder with Garan Lucow Miller PC, in Detroit, Michigan. He focuses his practice on premises liability and auto negligence defense, casino litigation, and sports & recreation law litigation. Nathan is a 2005 cum laude graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School.

Chad D. Engelhardt, of Goethel Engelhardt PLLC, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, focuses his practice on medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury. He has volunteered as a guardian ad litem for Oakland County Probate Court and Oakland County Circuit Court Family Division, as well as the Lakeshore Legal Clinic (Family Law Assistance) and Making Meals Happen.  He was named to the National Trial Lawyers Association’s Top 40 under 40 in 2012, and to that group’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Michigan in 2013. Super Lawyers named him a Michigan Rising Star 2010-2012, a Super Lawyer in 2013, and to its Top 50 Consumer Lawyers in Michigan list in 2014. In addition, the New York Times named Chad to its Top Young Attorneys in Michigan 2010-2013, Detroit Business Magazine named him as a Top Lawyer in medical malpractice, personal injury, and professional liability in 2011 and 2013, and the Michigan Association for Justice named him a Pace Setter in 2013. Chad is a 2005 magna cum laude graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School.

Nicholas F.X. Gumina, of Eardley Law Offices PC, in Rockford, Michigan, , focuses his practice on complex legal and medical malpractice litigation, employment and civil rights matters. He is a 2010 magna cum laude graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School.

Raymond A. Harris, of Bernick, Radner & Ouellette PC, in Lansing, Michigan, focuses his practice on Medicaid, disability and elder law; estate planning, probate and trust administration, probate litigation, guardianships and conservatorships. He is a member of the board of trustees for the Lansing Educational Advancement Foundation, and the boards of directors for Elder Law of Michigan, the RJ Scheffell Memorial Toys Project, and Fenner Nature Center. He also serves as the treasurer for the Toys Project and Fenner organizations.  Raymond is a 2007 cum laude graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School.

Ryan C. Plecha, of Lippitt O’Keefe Gornbein PLLC, of Lippitt O’Keefe Gornbein PLLC, in Birmingham, Michigan, focuses his practice on civil litigation and complex commercial litigation, estate planning, and bankruptcy. He was named a Super Lawyers Rising Star in 2013 and 2014. Ryan is a 2008 magna cum laude graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School.

Robert A. Welch Jr., an associate principal with Kitch Drutchas Wagner Valitutti & Sherbrook, in Detroit, Michigan, focuses his practice on birth trauma and medical malpractice litigation. Robert was named a Super Lawyers Rising Star in 2012 and 2013. He is a 2009 graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School.

Jesse L. Young, of Sommers Schwartz PC, in Southfield, Michigan, is a member of the firm’s complex litigation group. He manages the day to day operations of the firm’s national wage and hour practice, and focuses primarily on federal and state wage and hour claims. He became a member of the Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors in 2012, and was named 2011 Volunteer of the Year by that organization. Jesse has been named a Super Lawyers Rising Star (Michigan) 2012-present. He is a 2009 cum laude graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School.

The Cooley alumni, along with law school alumni from Wayne State University Law School (7), Michigan State University (6), University of Michigan (4), University of Detroit (3), and Valparaiso (1) were honored at a special luncheon at the Detroit Marriott in Troy, Michigan.

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